What is driving this trend?
Epidemics and Diseases
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted social and economic inequalities and presented a challenge to sustainable ways of living.
Increasing Pressure on the Environment
Demands to tackle the global climate crisis have accelerated.
The growth of urban areas is taking its toll on the environment, exacerbating everything from pollution to the loss of green space.
As Gen Zers grow into adulthood, their social values are taking centre stage and seeping into the mainstream. There is a movement towards becoming a more mindful citizen. While overt activism is an important part of responsible living, for most people, it’s becoming more about integrating activism into their daily lives, making ethical consumption an easy and affordable choice rather than an unattainable aspiration.
People are becoming more aware of global and societal issues. Indeed, the events of 2020 – from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement to spikes in racist abuse towards people of Asian heritage – have unearthed deep-rooted injustices and inequalities around the world. As a result, many are looking to educate themselves about the experiences of others and become better allies.
The growing awareness of global problems is leading to an increasing intolerance of brand complacency. People are recognising the social influence wielded by brands and businesses, and expectations for them to act and advocate for change are growing. In turn, brands large and small are paving new pathways to sustainability, offering easy and accessible consumer options.
People are looking to resolve the tension between wanting sustainable packaging and wanting hygienic options
Before the COVID-19 crisis, people were concerned about the amount of packaging they used. But the threat of contracting the virus has seen many prioritise their safety instead. In May 2020, the global market for packaging was projected to grow by 5.5% during the pandemic, largely due to a surge in demand for plastic.
But that doesn’t mean people are trashing their eco-values. For many, the pandemic is an opportunity to reset how we think about the planet – 86% of people want significant changes to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. They’re looking for ways to balance concerns about sustainability with the desire to protect themselves and their loved ones.
People who say they are more concerned about hygiene and food safety of packaging now compared to before the pandemic
62% in China
37% in Germany
54% in France
61% in the UK
71% in the US
Edible Transparent Film
In 2021, a group of scientists from Russia and India have developed an edible transparent film made from seaweed biopolymer sodium alginate, which can dissolve in water within 24 hours. The alginate molecules also have natural antioxidant ferulic acid, which makes the film more rigid and helps preserve food for longer.Read more on The Spoon
People are swapping in more sustainable alternatives to their everyday practises and purchases
Brands are breaking down the barriers to buying sustainable products through shifts such as lower price points, a wider variety of goods and accessibility outside of specialist shops. As a result, green alternatives are hitting the mainstream and people are integrating eco-minded consumption into the everyday.
of consumers globally consider food waste to be an important environmental issue.
Waitrose: Championing potato milk
Recognising people’s desire for more variety in sustainable milk alternatives, Waitrose announced plans to stock a line of potato milk from Swedish brand DUG from February 2022. Boasting a variety of health benefits including Vitamins A, B, D, E, B12 and calcium, it poses a strong potential contender to other favourite dairy alternatives like oat, almond and soy.Read more on Championing potato milk
People are willing to expand their diets in order to live more sustainable lifestyles
Chefs and researchers are working together to develop ‘climate change menus’, which highlight food sources that have great potential for feeding the world’s population in a more sustainable and healthy way. From cell-cultured proteins to eating invasive species, people are shaking up their diets to benefit the planet.
By 2025, the market for alternative protein, including meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood products, could reach at least
Wahaca: Opting out of carbon-costly avocados
Mexican restaurant Wahaca is recognising the eco-cost of using avocados, which require up to 320 litres of water each to grow. Instead, chefs are experimenting with more environmentally friendly ingredients like artichokes, fava beans and courgettes to come up with avocado-based dishes like guacamole.
People want brands to help them live a greener lifestyle
There is an increased desire to live more sustainably, but it's a space that can be seen as confusing and full of jargon. Without the right information, it can be difficult to know where to start. For example, 54% of Americans want to reduce their carbon footprint, and 45% say fighting climate change is personally important. But 67% only have a vague idea of where their carbon emissions come from. So people are looking to brands to give them their the tools they need to start acting on their eco intentions.
of people globally say they want to change their lifestyles to improve their own lives, the lives of others and the environment. But just 31% say they have actually made these changes.
Boots: Making recycling easy
Boots is removing some of the friction around recycling by placing recycling boxes in its stores, so customers drop off their empty product bottles from makeup to toiletries. And it rewards them for doing so - with each product dropped in the boxes earning Boots Advantage card points they can spend in-store.Read more on Making recycling easy
People want brands to clearly display information to backup ethical claims.
From rainbow washing to greenwashing, we’ve seen that people are quick to call out brands that appear to be performative. Increasingly, people are wanting to know the behind-the-scenes stories of where and how their products were made, as well as clear, evidence-backed credentials that support any claims to ethical behaviours.
of people say that too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell more of their products.
Lidl: Demystifying carbon labels
Lidl has introduced a traffic-score system labelled ‘Eco-Score’ to help consumers better understand the sustainability claims on products. It uses colour codes ranging from red to green (red being high impact and green being low). The grading will factor in the product’s production methods, impact on biodiversity, packaging, and carbon footprint.Read more on Demystifying carbon labels
People are looking for more sustainably sourced foods and increasingly want to understand their entire lifecycle
People are looking to find products that reduce their impact on the planet through their production – and brands are listening. For example, US salad chain Sweetgreen has pledged to halve its carbon footprint between 2011 and 2027, and NYC-based restaurant chain Just Salad introduced labels to its menus outlining the carbon emissions associated with the production and transportation of each product to allow people to make more informed choices.
of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from food production
Meade Farm: Extracting starch from surplus potatoes
In 2020, Meade Farm, the Irish potato grower and packer, found a way to extract starch from its surplus potatoes and potato processing by-products. Its starch has proven appealing to manufacturers as it is gluten-free and has a higher viscosity than corn starch. This process also helps reduce food waste, adds a higher value to the national potato crop and creates new export opportunities.Read more on the story
To help you shift insight into action, we have developed a toolkit of 7 resources. You can use them all for a full planning session, but you can mix and match these based on which you feel are most relevant to the opportunities you are addressing for your business and your brand(s).
Toolkit Cheat Sheets
These cheat sheets used in conjunction with the toolkit provide useful stimulus for workshops or any kind of trends team work. While you can download and use yourselves, please contact the Thinking House for more material and support.